Journals The Tattoo

Legal at last with my learner’s permit

Aurora, Nebraska, UNITED STATES — There are steps every teenager must take to become an adult, or so I believe. These include such things as the first time you sneak out of the house, the first rock concert you go to by a band that your parents have never heard of, and the step I just completed today: getting my learner’s permit.

Of course all this means is that I can learn to drive legally now. For the past six months, I’ve been secretly driving on country roads shrouded by darkness with my dad, a town police sergeant, by my side.

For the entire week leading up to my birthday, my dad had been gently reassuring me that if I didn’t pass the test on my first time I would be in very much pain.

“No Brokenrope has ever failed their driver’s test,” he told me, which is just stupid of him to say because only like the past three generations including me have actually ridden in cars. Before that, my family lived in teepees and rode on horses.

Even though my dad’s intimidation doesn’t really work on me, I still studied for that test like none other.

Every night for a week I read through the stupid little rule book, just memorizing rules and regulations. So that’s why I was extremely confident in myself as I entered the big stone courthouse this afternoon, my Social Security number and birth certificate clutched tightly in my hands.

I was determined to pass the test.

“Welcome to the DMV,” the lady at the counter said hastily as I entered the small room in the courthouse basement.

The place looked like it came straight from the ‘70s – green shag carpet, mustard yellow walls, and even that old smell to it.

“Just sit right here and press your head against the viewfinder,” she said, rushing as she took the papers out of my hand and began quickly typing the information into the computer set before her.

“Now please read me the third row of letters,” she said. Her fingers still hitting the keyboard at a startling rate, she seemed like she’d had way too much coffee.

“K,Z,Y…,” I began, my forehead pressed up against the monitor.

“NO, NO, NO! The third row of letters.

You’re trying to read the third column,” she screeched.

“Oh … sorry,” I said apologetically.

This couldn’t be good. I hadn’t even got to the actual test and I was already screwing up. Man, I’m such a loser.

When I finished the vision exam, the lady gave me a large piece of paper covered in plastic with the test questions on it, a felt tip pen, and another sheet of paper covered in bubbles.

“Okay, what you do is, you read the question, take the pen and fill in the bubbles,” she said, and snatched the pen out of my hand.

“Be very, very, careful to fill in only the bubble you want, and if by some chance you mark .…”

Obviously this lady thought I had never seen a test before, but I smiled, took the test and the pen in my hand and sat down at one of the ancient tables that filled the room.

I stared at the sheet.

“When you approach a bus coming in the opposite direction with its stop arm extended, do you stop?”

True or False?

Crap. I hadn’t seen this question before.

My palms begin to perspire and instinctively the pen rose to my mouth and I bit down on the cap.

I stared at the question, the words burning themselves into my mind.

Finally, stumped, I used the one thing that had always proven to get me out of tough situations: “Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe.”

I landed on false.

“Okay,” I thought, and marked the little box with the pen.

Fifteen minutes later, fairly confident in myself, I took the test to the lady at the counter and waited. She pulled out the little checking sheet and ran it down the page.

“Yes…yes…ohhh… No,” she said.

My eyes glanced up from the floor.

What did she mean, “No?” I knew every question on that test, minus the one that I wasn’t sure about.

“Okay,” she said as she finished grading the test. “You passed, only missed one. Good job.”

I grabbed my test from her hands and looked at it, scanning to see which one I missed. Question number five glared at me; the big red swoosh next to it bold against the black ink on the page.

“When at a four way intersection with no signs you always yield to the ____”

I practically screamed at the page: ‘You always yield to the RIGHT!’ I KNEW that!

I looked at the choices below and the bubble that I had marked. Damn!

I’d marked that you yielded to the left.

“Okay, now please go upstairs to the office on the left and get your ID made,” she said, ushering me out.

I walked upstairs and entered a room with license plates coveringevery wall.

“Good afternoon,” the lady behind the counter said. “Here to get your ID?”

“Yeah,” I said, handing over the paper. “Here.”

She typed in my information even faster then the other lady.

“Okay, if you’ll just stand right there, I’ll take your picture,” she said, and pointed to a big blue screen hung up against the wall.

I turned and stood against it, my best smile plastered onto my face.

The camera flashed once and click!

Five seconds later my ID popped out of the machine.

I stared at the picture, my smug grin and information stared back at me.

Mission accomplished.

Zach Brokenrope is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.